The ryokan tradition might be one of the world’s longest-running hospitality genres, but in Japan, there’s a distinction between “traditional” and “old-fashioned.” And while Kanamean Nishitomiya has plenty of connection with the past — for one thing, it’s a 19th-century townhouse, a rarity in Kyoto — a stay here isn’t a trip back in time so much as it is an experience of Japanese hospitality stripped down to its essence.
After all, the owners haven’t been precious about outfitting their antique home with contemporary furniture. All seven rooms are tatami-style, which is as traditional as can be, but the house’s modern artworks and library full of books break the otherwise retro mood. And every room is individual, in its way, with differing layouts and décor, so no two stays are quite the same.
The urban location means it’s convenient as can be, while the townhouse setting isolates you from the city’s business. The highlight, as in any ryokan, is dinner, an elaborate multi-course affair for which you dress in traditional garb and follow a carefully prescribed routine. Here it’s been recognized with a Michelin star, which is no small achievement for a family-owned business such as this.